Ancillary relief

Ancillary relief

Ancillary relief is a pecuniary payment to a party to a marriage in England and Wales, on divorce, nullity or judicial separation. It may be awarded on presentation of a claim to a court in England or Wales for resolution of resulting financial issues.


Since 1984, the court has been required to assess whether the financial relationship between the parties can be terminated immediately. This can be done in a number of ways, not least by the payment of a capital sum in lieu of maintenance and/or by the imposition of a "clean break" order, which has the effect of barring a litigant from making any further claim for any form of ancillary relief.

Maintenance orders can be given on nominal or specific terms. Nominal terms are intended to keep the applicant's rights to get maintenance alive while the former partner isn't able to pay. The order can be reviewed any time to match the ongoing changes in financial capacity of the parties.

Nominal orders operate on the basis that if the court makes no order for maintenance (known as "periodical payments") at the time of the final order, it cannot later come back and make an order. If, on the other hand, it makes an order, it can later vary it. This is why an order for periodical payments at the rate of 5 pence per year (the usual nominal order) is known as a nominal order - it gives the recipient the right to come back and make an application for a substantive monthly sum at a later date.

Specific terms are set to review the orders on specific dates the court thinks of as useful when taking into account the future financial expectations of the parties. An order on specific term may disallow the applicant to apply for further maintenance once the specific term has run out. This is called the "deferred clean break". Such an order may, but does not necessarily, contain a "lump sum" to be paid at the end of the maintenance period.

For more recent petitions, the court can divide ownership of a pension fund, known as 'pension sharing'. The principal source is section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which sets out the main factors to be taken into account.

Legal rulings

The law has developed significantly since the House of Lords gave judgment in the case of "'White v White 2001" 1 A.C. 596', where assets available exceed the parties "financial needs" (or reasonable requirements) for housing and income. Since then, the Court of Appeal has developed case law on the meaning of 'fairness' and where an equal division is appropriate. See Miller v Miller [2006] (HL) for a recent case concerning short marriage, subs tantial assets.See Pagliowska v Pagliowski (CA) re runaway legal costs.

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